Animals are increasingly recognized for the therapeutic value they provide to older adults. As aging takes a toll on lifestyle, a “man’s best friend” could be the answer to living a longer, happier and loving life. The evidence from research done on using animals for multiple forms of therapy is so apparent that some facilities are now building pet therapy into their residence care plan.
There are many choices in deciding how best to incorporated pets into a senior’s life. If becoming a pet owner is the best decision, here are some tips on choosing which pet will be best for your loved one:
- Type of pet. What is the right choice of pet for their lifestyle and activity level? Dogs, for instance, make wonderful companions but demand greater care and training than cats, birds, or fish.
- Future situations. What is in their foreseeable future? Are they planning to stay in the same place for many years, or will they be making a transition to an assisted-living facility?
- Allergy considerations. Make sure you are aware of their allergies and what type of pets they should avoid.
- Cost. Think about caring for the pet on a fixed income. “Caring” can include food, litter (for cats), vet bills, and medications.
- Contingency care. Just as you would make accommodations for a child, make sure there is someone who can watch or take over caring for the pet in the case of an emergency.
Your health or lifestyle may not make it possible for you to own your own pet. If so, search for pet therapy programs in your area. Many programs make it possible for animals to visit your home or facility to make interaction and therapy possible. According to www.helpguide.org, “stroking, holding, cuddling, or otherwise touching a loving animal can rapidly calm and soothe us when we’re stressed. The companionship of a pet can also ease loneliness, and some pets are a great stimulus for healthy exercise, which can substantially boost mood.” Even fish foster healthy living. A Purdue University study demonstrates that the presence of an aquarium at mealtimes stimulates the appetite of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
So, For The Love of Dogs, listen to the research and consider incorporating these healing animals into the life of your aging loved one!